The 2016 US Open gets under way today with 128 men and women competing for bragging rights at the final Grand Slam of the year.
Fans will notice a range of changes and upgrades to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from the moment they step onto the grounds,from the new retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium to the opening of a new Grandstand Stadium and the renovation of the fields courts and South Plaza.
With all the changes taking place, we know you’ve got plenty of questions. Fortunately, we’ve got answers to your most common queries.
Q: Will the roof be ready this year?
A: Yes, the retractable roof is in place and operational. It will provide fans with uninterrupted match play – save for the six or seven minutes it takes to close the roof – regardless of weather conditions. Players have already practiced in Arthur Ashe stadium, both with the roof open and closed, and extensive testing has been carried out to ensure ensure works smoothly.
Q: Will the roof be closed to provide shade for fans on hot days?
A: No, the roof will only be closed for inclement weather or the threat of inclement weather. It will not be used to keep fans out of the sun or heat. Also, the roof will either be fully open or fully closed; there is no in-between option like at some other tournaments that use a retractable roof.
Q: How will this affect capacity in Arthur Ashe Stadium this year?
A: There will be no effect on capacity in Arthur Ashe Stadium. It will remain at 23,771 seats. There will be a 15-foot gap between the top row of seats and the roof structure, but no seats have been added or removed.
Q: Will the roof block the views from any seats inside Arthur Ashe Stadium this year? Or will this take away the New York City skyline view from the top of the stadium?
A: The construction will have no effect on sight lines in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and the Manhattan skyline will still be visible from the top of the stadium when the shutter doors are open. If the roof is closed and the shutter doors are closed, the skyline will not be visible.
Q: When the roof is open, what will the wind be like inside? And when the roof is closed, will there be air conditioning on?
A: The roof will not change weather conditions inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. While it will not provide air conditioning like you would be accustomed to in your home, cold air will run through a duct system at the top of the stadium when the roof is closed to help manage humidity throughout the stadium seating area and on the court.
Q: Will the new Grandstand be ready this year?
A: A new 8,125-seat Grandstand stadium has been built in the southwest corner of the grounds, near the practice courts and Courts 4-6, and it is ready for play. It's sunken into the ground, like Court 17, and its asymmetrical design and sun canopy roof means the majority of spectators will be able to stay in the shade throughout the day.
Q: What other features does the new Grandstand have?
A: A raised walkway around the upper bowl will allow fans to walk around the entire 360 degrees of the stadium. A patio viewing area with outdoor lawn furniture at the upper bowl will give fans the chance to watch the action inside the Grandstand and on the neighboring Courts 8-10, and eight new concession stands inside the stadium will give spectators more food and drink choices than before. There will also be a picnic area for fans to relax between matches.
Q: Is seating in the new Grandstand on a first-come, first-served basis like before?
A: The new Grandstand will consist of a mixture of reserved courtside seats and general admission seats. You can purchase a ticket for a reserved seat for the first eight days of the tournament, or you can access the other seats on a first-come, first-served basis.
Q: What about the old Grandstand? Has that been demolished?
A: No, the physical structure of the stadium is still there. The old Grandstand will be used for a limited number of matches during the first week of the tournament and it will then serve as another practice court, letting fans get up close to their favorite players. The old Grandstand and Louis Armstrong Stadium structure will be knocked down after the 2016 US Open and a bigger, roof-ready Louis Armstrong Stadium will take its place in 2018.
Q: Are there any changes to the outer field courts?
A: Yes, with the exception of Courts 4-6, every field court has been demolished and rebuilt from scratch. A new 450-feet long, 40-feet wide walkway has been built connecting Court 17 to the new Grandstand stadium. All of the outer field courts have been realigned to create more space for fans to watch the action and move between courts.
Courts 8-10 will hold 20 percent more fans following the introduction of raised seating behind the baseline. Another walkway will connect Courts 13-16, where 600 more seats have been created by adding baseline bleachers and larger sideline benches. Court 7 and Court 11 have been rebuilt to provide more food options and twice as many restrooms as before, and Court 12 has been expanded from around 200 seats to almost 1,400 seats.
In total, that’s an increase of 36 percent more seats on the outside field courts compared to 2015.
Q: With more people on the grounds, won’t it be more congested than before?
A: No, movement will be greatly improved by drawing some of the spectators from the old Grandstand to the other corner of the site. In addition, more seats on the field courts will keep fewer people walking around the grounds, and expanded food courts will keep lines smaller at the concession stands.
Q: What additions have been made to the Food Village?
A: The existing food court will be expanded to include six more booths by Court 17, and there will be eight kiosks and a new mini Food Village near the new Grandstand. In addition, a new 36-foot-long oyster bar will anchor the back of Court 7, and the previous food offerings at Courts 11 will be bigger than in previous years. Angry Taco, BLT Fish Shack, Fuku, Jacob's Creek Bar, Korilla BBQ and Neapolitan Express are new to the food village.
Q: Are there other new food options this year?
A; Yes. In the new Grandstand, Ben & Jerry;s, BLT Fish Shack, Farm 2 Fork, Franks & Fries, Hill Country BBQ, Neapolitan Express and Prime Burger will serve hungry fans. Grey Goose will also debut a new bar which features the Grey Goose Le Grand Fizz cocktail. Pat LaFrieda Meat Co. is at Court 7 and Wine Bar Food moves into the new Court 11. Vegetarian concession stand Soomsoom headlines new food options at Court 16 along with Morris Grilled Cheese, which was a popular food truck in 2015.
Q: Are there any other construction projects planned?
A: Yes, a temporary court will be erected in 2017 while the new Louis Armstrong Stadium is being built. The new, 14,000-seat stadium is the final phase of the transformation project and is scheduled to be complete and ready for play for the 2018 US Open. When finished, 85 percent of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will have been renovated as part of the US Open’s strategic transformation.
Q: Will these changes impact ticket prices?
A: The strategic transformation will have no impact on ticket prices. The USTA is self-financing the entire cost of the improvements through a combination of bonds and USTA revenue generation. No public funds will be utilized.